Luck and Risk

“I’ve had it so good in this world, you know. The odds were fifty-to-one against me being born in the United States in 1930. I won the lottery the day I emerged from the womb by being in the United States instead of in some other country where my chances would have been way different.

Imagine there are two identical twins in the womb, both equally bright and energetic. And the genie says to them, “One of you is going to be born in the United States, and one of you is going to be born in Bangladesh. And if you wind up in Bangladesh, you will pay no taxes. What percentage of your income would you bid to be the one that is born in the United States?” It says something about the fact that society has something to do with your fate and not just your innate qualities. The people who say, “I did it all myself,” and think of themselves as Horatio Alger — believe me, they’d bid more to be in the United States than in Bangladesh. That’s the Ovarian Lottery”

The Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

“They could have hired an outside computer expert to do the scheduling system. Teachers could have insisted that they teach classes on computing, simply because they were the teachers and we were the students,” Gates says. “But they didn’t.”

As a result, he says, “if there had been no Lakeside [high school], there would have been no Microsoft.”

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